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The Curse of the Family Business

The subject of being my own boss seems to be ongoing. First, I spoke of my early entrepreneurial leanings, then I moved on to discuss an attempt to set the foundation for working for myself and how that transpired. Now, I’d like to provide a direct example of not only a fairly-recent work-related incident that solidified my desire to be self-employed but also the types of people who should never go into business for themselves.

Got it? Let’s get started!

I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to be ruled by emotions.  By now, you should know that I prefer to convert negative emotions in a positive way that ultimately benefits me.  This particular situation took time to process, and that is why I can share it now.  Be warned, though, this is a long story.

It’s been almost three years since I stopped working for a company that will remain unnamed.  It started out amazingly well. I found something that I could enjoy doing and be paid fairly well for – fairly well considering a work at home position in Customer Service.  The interview process lasted over a month and, once officially hired, I was flown out to the company’s headquarters for five days of onsite training with all expenses paid.

One thing struck me as immediately odd, though.  I had three different interviews: Two via phone, and one via chat.  While that in itself wasn’t strange, it wasn’t until after I was hired and went to company headquarters for training that I discovered that all three of the people I interviewed with were related.  This was, essentially, a family-owned company. I tried to not let it bother me, yet I wondered why this hadn’t been divulged.  Family-owned companies are usually a good thing…right?

The job was easy and, though the company was a small one, I felt good about future prospects and the ability to advance.  But, the family ties were even more extensive.  There were cousins, in-laws, and (I suspect, though it has yet to be confirmed) another sister on staff.  It became obvious rather quickly that there actually would be no opportunity for advancement, that the choice positions had already been secured by family members.  For the foreseeable future, there was no room for me to move – not up, or even sideways, for that matter.

Did I mention that the job was easy, though?  Right.  I decided to stick it out and, because I was saving up to move at the time, I didn’t want to make any sudden moves.  There would be plenty of time to research other options at another company at a later time.

My eventual move was successful and, just as I was settling into my new place, some policy changes were introduced at work.  These changes affected the scope of the job itself and caused quite a lot of turmoil for the first month after implementation – not just for me, but for everyone.  A couple of my coworkers were vehemently opposed to the changes, but there wasn’t much we could do about it.  It was also around the same time that a few new people were hired to join our ranks.

The first clue that something was amiss occurred when I was asked to change my schedule to accommodate the new hires.  As someone who has worked in Customer Service for a long time, and in case you are unfamiliar, please allow me to explain something to you.  Customer Service jobs live by the amount of seniority that exists among the employees.  As a rule, it’s usually those that are most recently hired that get the worst schedule.  When I was hired, I didn’t complain about my schedule (though it wasn’t neither ideal nor fixed – meaning that the start and end times were not the same every day).  I held my tongue in the hopes that, if a position was vacated, I would have the opportunity to obtain a better schedule.

Yet now I was being asked to switch two of my earlier shifts to later shifts without any explanation…and the new hires would each benefit from one of my early shifts.  Up until this point, I’d been very accommodating.  If someone called out and they needed a last-minute fill-in, I volunteered.  If overtime was needed, I volunteered.  However, I didn’t find being asked to give up my early shifts to be entirely fair.  I relinquished one shift but asked to keep the other.  My boss balked at the counter-offer and voiced that it was her “goal,” and yes she used that word, to take the shift from me and to give it to someone else on the East Coast.

Ah, so…now we have an explanation.  You see, I’d moved from the Central to the Pacific time zone.  That meant that my 9a-5p shift was now 7a-3p, and my 7a-1p shift was now 5a-11a…and she wanted to give those shifts to someone else.  But, what sense does that make, and how is that fair?

I held firm, and maintained that I wanted to keep the 5a-11a shift.  She agreed after a time, and my 7a-3p was taken and switched to 10a-7p, and the 12p-9p shift she wanted me to have was ultimately given to someone else.  I honestly thought that was the end of it.

Only a few weeks later, I received an instant message from my boss stating that she wanted to talk with me and would be calling my extension.  When the call came, I was conferenced in with her and her sister – another member of upper management that I mentioned earlier in this post.  The conversation, if you can call it that, was comical in nature even though it infuriated me.

I was accused of not working my shift on several occasions, told that I had been absent for long periods without any work being done.  I, a grown woman, was actually yelled at by two other grown women who spoke to me in a way that was anything but professional.  When I retorted – in an even tone despite how angry I was – I was accused of having an attitude problem.  I was threatened with termination, advised that I would be watched, and the conversation abruptly ended.

It was on that very day that I started to look for a new job.  The audacity…the ridiculousness…the unmitigated GALL of accusing me the way they did stung me in ways I haven’t yet found the ability to explain without using cuss words.  Neither of them talked TO me. Neither offered proof of their accusations.  I had no idea what brought this on.  I couldn’t understand this sudden turnaround, but I was determined to get out.

Less than two months later, I still hadn’t found a new job.  I had interviews that were promising, but none yet resulted in the news that would mean my freedom.  I did my best to lay low at my current job, still unsure as to what it was that caused my boss (and her sister) to completely transform and make accusations against me. I felt like they were trying to goad or provoke me to justify whatever it was they were trying to do and, when it didn’t work, they retreated.

But, they weren’t done.

Almost two months after the previous incident, I received another message from my boss in which she stated she wanted to call me to talk.  This time, she was the only person on the line.  Her sister was obviously elsewhere.  That was the only difference.  I was again accused of not working my shift, and again I denied that was the case.  I was told that since I didn’t learn from the previous conversation, the only way to get through to me would likely be to “hit” my pockets by taking one of my shifts away from me.

I thought she might take away the 5a-11a shift that she had her eye on a few months previously.  But, no.  For some reason, she actually took away the late shift she had just given me at that same time.  At first I was annoyed but then realized that it could work to my benefit.  I had an extra day: to write, to blog (I had a different blog back then), to cultivate a side-job so that my pockets weren’t “hit” as hard as she might have liked.  It was okay and, meanwhile, my job search continued.

Roughly three weeks after that I received an email.  In it, I was praised for implementing the suggestions given during the previous conversation (even though I hadn’t done anything differently). I was told that, because of the vast improvement, my boss wanted to give me back the shift she’d taken away.  However, she wasn’t willing to return to me shift that I had previously.  Coincidentally, or likely not, the shift she wanted to give me was the Infamous 12p-9p shift from three months ago.

I politely declined. That, however, still wasn’t the end of it.  More to come.